Why the Phillies beat the Dodgers

Well this is fun.

To begin with, again condolences to the Dodgers faithful on the NLCS. There’s a lot of terrific young talent on the roster and there are a lot of past-their-prime veterans due for free agency. Hopefully it will free up money to add talent this offseason or lock up some of the youngsters through their prime years.

As awesome as “The Manny Ramirez Experience” was for you folks, I don’t think you’ll want him over the long haul. He’ll soon need to DH and he’s at an age where his batting skills (his only skill at this point) could go into decline, leaving you with a major sunk cost and unhappy ballplayer. He’ll be an inverted version of Juan Pierre in that his one talent will no longer be as useful due to age and it will be a tough contract to move.

I mean, c’mon, have you already forgotten the fun Scott Boras had with your team under Kevin Malone? You had a fun fling—time to move on.

But I digress (and may do so more fully in a column in the near future).

You’ll never guess what I did. I brought along a guest to chat about the series. Once again, I have brought along Antonio Banderas clone Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley and Baseball Digest Daily to sort out what I thought was a fun NLCS. While Cole Hamels won the MVP, I will always remember this for Brett Myers‘ incredulity at his three-hit performance in game two and of course Matt Stairs‘ bomb in game four.

I recall cringing a bit when he came up, since he was having trouble catching up to fastballs due to a lengthening of his swing while still in Toronto and didn’t want his postseason moment ruined by making a key out. I was hoping for him to simply walk and keep the inning going.

When the count went 3-1 I thought it would happen.

However, in came the pitch: right into Stairs’ wheelhouse. For some reason it all seemed to go in slow motion and all I could think was “don‘t miss.” By “don‘t miss” I was simply thinking “base hit” and in my wildest dreams I never imagined what would happen next.

It was the most gleefully unexpected home run I had seen since Robbie Alomar’s off Dennis Eckersley in game four of the 1992 ALCS. After all, Alomar only had eight jacks that season. A hit? Sure, but a bomb off of one of the greatest relief pitchers of his era?

Moving on…

Q: OK Bill, quick question: why did the Phillies win their first pennant since (ahem) 1993?

Bill: Broadcasters mentioned the Phillies’ love of the big inning frequently after the NLDS, and I was skeptical of its pertinence, but the Phillies showed in the NLCS that they definitely have a propensity for putting up crooked numbers. Against the Brewers, the Phillies scored in six of 34 innings (17.6 percent), but scored 15 runs in those six innings (2.5 runs per inning). In the NLCS, the Phillies scored in 11 of 43 innings (25.6 percent), but scored 25 runs in those 11 innings (2.3 runs per inning): four one-spots, three two-spots, a three-spot and three four-spots against the Dodgers.

Furthermore, the Blue Crew was 9-for-43 (.209) with runners in scoring position; the Phillies went 11-for-39 (.282). Overall, there wasn’t too much difference in offensive production for the teams. The Phillies put up a line of .266/.340/.402 compared to the Dodgers’ .261/.363/.388. Despite the similar offenses, the Phillies actually put better swings on the ball more frequently than the Dodgers. Overall, they hit line drives 21 percent of the time to the Dodgers’ 20 percent, but if you take out game four, the margin goes to 22-15.

John: I mentioned last week that Ramirez is the one guy I don’t let beat me. Despite his “give this man a urinalysis” line of .533/.682/1.067, his big blows came when the Phillies were comfortably ahead. Nevertheless his post season heroics (13 hits, 11 walks, four home runs and 10 RBIs in just eight games) doubtlessly had his agent Scott Boras light up with more afterglow than he did on his honeymoon (the one with his wife, not the one when A-Rod became a free agent after the 2000 season).

Bill: Neither side had great production all series from many of its regulars: just Manny Ramirez (1.749 OPS) and James Loney (1.089) for the Dodgers, and Chase Utley (1.169), Pat Burrell (.868), and Shane Victorino (.800) for the Phillies. But unlike the Dodgers, when the Phillies’ regulars did produce, it was timely. For instance, Carlos Ruiz had one RBI all series, but it came on a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the second inning in game two to start the Phillies four-run inning.

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Q: What surprised me was the performance of the Phillies (non-Hamels) starters and Chad Billingsley. I expected a lot more, especially from Moyer at Chavez Ravine and Chad Billingsley. Thoughts?

Bill: As for pitching, Phillies’ starters had an ERA of 6.05; Dodgers’ starters had an ERA of 6.76. Phillies’ relievers had an ERA of 0.96; Dodgers’ relievers had an ERA of 2.07. The Phillies’ starting pitching really wasn’t as bad as the ERA indicates. Three of Brett Myers’ five earned runs were unlucky, as he gave up a home run to Manny Ramirez that just squeaked over the left field fence, and one of the runners on base (Rafael Furcal) reached via a two-out strikeout-wild pitch. After game three, I explained why Jamie Moyer was more unlucky than bad. Overall, the Phillies’ starting pitching was actually really good.

John: I think you’re a little generous there but I thought Blanton did a nice job getting out of the fifth inning in his start; that could’ve gotten out of hand and of course it set up Stairs’ heroics. While my prediction of a walk off win didn’t materialize, the Phillies did rally off the Dodgers’ bullpen in the penultimate inning of game four. I thought the criticism of Joe Torre’s bullpen usage was a bit over the top. After all, had the Dodgers won that game he likely would’ve been lauded for his creativity.

Bill: The Phillies’ bullpen gave up only two runs, and just one of the runs mattered: Casey Blake’s home run off of Chad Durbin to start off the sixth inning of game four. On the other hand, the Dodgers’ bullpen gave up five total runs, all of them meaningful, and all of them being allowed in game four, essentially wiping out Durbin’s mistake. In other words, 100 percent of the runs the Dodgers’ bullpen gave up mattered; 0 percent for the Phillies’ ‘pen.

Q: Baserunning and defense? I‘m surprised the Phillies haven‘t been running more although they haven’t really needed to and hopefully Rafael Furcal’s next contract won’t be negatively affected by his defensive pratfalls. What are the “Baer” facts?

Bill: When the Dodgers made errors, they came back to haunt them; when the Phillies made errors, it rarely did:

Game 1: Shane Victorino leads off the sixth inning with a grounder to shortstop Rafael Furcal. He rushes, throws wide of first base, and Victorino is safe. Utley promptly deposits the very next pitch over the right field fence to tie the game at 2-2.

Game 2: With Brett Myers on first base with two outs in the second inning, Jimmy Rollins hit a grounder up the middle. It was booted by center fielder Matt Kemp, allowing Myers to advance to third and Rollins to second. Both scored on a Shane Victorino single.

Greg Dobbs committed and error with two outs and runners on first and second in the third inning, but Blake DeWitt struck out to end the inning.

Game 4: With runners on first (Matt Kemp) and second (Juan Pierre) and no outs in the sixth inning, Rafael Furcal attempted to bunt the runners over. Ryan Howard fielded the bunt but threw wide of first base, allowing Pierre to score, Kemp to advance to third, and Furcal to second. However, no further runs were scored despite that there were no outs.

Game 5: With runners on first (Ryan Howard) and second (Jayson Werth) and one out, Pat Burrell hit a grounder to shortstop Furcal. He booted it, and tried to throw Utley out at home but his throw was inaccurate, allowing Howard to advance to third and Burrell to second.

Later in the inning, with two outs and the bases loaded, Carlos Ruiz hit another grounder to Furcal, but his throw to first base was weak and James Loney could not catch the short hop. As a result, Howard scored and everyone else advanced one base.

If you’re keeping score, that’s one run scored on account of poor Phillies defense, and six runs scored on account of poor Dodgers defense. Overall, the Dodgers out-erred the Phillies 5-to-2.

Baserunning didn’t play a big factor. The Phillies were 2-for-4 (50 percent) and the Dodgers were 1-for-3 (33 percent). None of the baserunners thrown out killed a potential rally, and none of the successful basestealers added to a rally.

Why did the Phillies beat the Dodgers? They out-pitched them, they got timely hits, and they played much better defense.

John: The biggest thing was the performance of their aces. Cole Hamels got it done and Chad Billingsley did not. Hamels got the Phillies on the board putting them up 1-0 and finished it off in game five. Of course we can never overlook the value of a little Canadian bacon eh?

Well, Bill, next up we can discuss why the Phillies will win the Fall Classic as soon as we find out who their victim will be!

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